In Search Of The Dual 1000 Yard WR Club
There once was a time when NFL highlights consisted of mainly big hits. Now with player safety concerns those days are long gone. The league went through another phase where running backs juking defenders out of their shoes or breaking their ankles dominated the top play highlight segments. Then the passing game exploded and next thing we know the wide receiver position is one of the most exciting in football. Highlights of guys jumping through the air, flying down the field with sub 4.40 speed and guys making insane one-handed catches have reigned supreme.
One thing that increases as passing stats increase is also the number of 1000 yard receivers. An offense having a 1000 yard receiver isn’t special anymore, but having two 1000 receiving yard players is still something that I think all offensive coordinators are thrilled to accomplish. Then there are the select five in NFL history to have three players with 1000 or more receiving yards in the same season. You can see them below
I decided on focusing on the 1000 receiving yard duos though. Last season there were four teams that had two players eclipse the 1000 yard mark. The Jets, Jaguars, Broncos, and Cardinals all accomplished this. The Browns came close with having Gary Barnidge break the 1000 yard mark and Travis Benjamin in 966 yards. The Saints had Brandin Cooks with 1140 yards and Willie Snead with 990 yards. The Raiders had Amari Cooper with 1070 yards and Michael Crabtree with 922 yards. The Eagles and Chiefs also came relatively close to this feat.
First up are the Jets. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker both had incredible seasons. Marshall had 109 catches for 1502 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Eric Decker had 80 catches for 1027 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ryan Fitzmagic and Geno Smith combined gave the Jets had 601 passing attempts; this allowed Marshall and Decker to combine for just over 50% of the teams targets. With Fitzpatrick currently a free agent and Geno Smith atop the depth chart I cannot see Marshall and Decker having as successful of a season this year. Even if Ryan Fitzpatrick does resign in New York, he has already missed a significant portion of the offseason program and that will hurt the chemistry and timing that they had last season.
The two Allen’s also joined the dual 1000 yard receiving club last season. The Jacksonville Jaguars had a top 10 passing offense last year and Allen Robinson & Allen Hurns were the main beneficiaries of that. Blake Brotles had 4428 passing yards (7th in the NFL) and threw for 35 touchdowns (2nd in the NFL). Both receivers had breakout seasons last year. Robinson had 80 catches for 1400 yards and Hurns totaled 64 catches for 1031 yards. While I do expect the Jaguars to have a better defense this year, resulting in less time playing from behind, I don’t expect the offense to regress going into next season. Last season the Jaguars ranked 26th in the NFL for 3 and out percentage, with 25.29% of their drives ending in a 3 and out. In addition to so many of their drives ending in 3 and outs, they also only ranked 21st in the league in total plays… and 27th in the league for drives lasting at least 10 plays. With all this room for improvement on the offensive side of the ball – even if their defense is improved – I think Hurns and Robinson both have an excellent chance of breaking 1000 yards.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both topped 1000 yards for the Broncos in 2015. While the QB struggles were well documented, whether it was Manning or Osweiler it didn’t matter. The Broncos finished 14th in the league in passing yardage and only threw for 19 touchdowns. But these are not even the most alarming statistics from last year. The Broncos led the NFL in interceptions thrown and had the second worst combined QB Rating in the NFL. No matter who ends up starting for Denver this season they can only go up. I see no reason why Manny and DT cannot at least duplicate their numbers from last season.
The last team that achieved 2 guys with 1000 yards was the Arizona Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald who turns 33 this year finished with 1215 yards and 9 touchdowns. John Brown was his main counterpart in the passing game last season, finishing with 1003 yards and 7 touchdowns. Michael Floyd came decently close also, as he ended the year with 849 yards and 6 touchdowns. However I do not see the Cardinal receivers repeating this feat. Major pieces of this offense are getting old, bottom line. Carson Palmer is turning 37 this year; Larry Fitzgerald will be 33 before the start of the season. I fully expect both of these guys to start to take a step backwards. I expect John Brown to have another good year, even topping 1000 yards again. But I think that Floyd and Fitzgerald both will be in the 900 yard range. It would not surprise me if they even started to run the ball more frequently. They finished 9th in the league for rushing attempts last season and I can see that going up higher.
This season I can see a few teams entering the dual 1000 yard club. The first and most likely that I see is the Green Bay Packers. Jordy Nelson will be back healthy and Randall Cobb will be able to step back into his comfort zone as the number 2 receiver. Last year that they both played, Nelson put up over 1500 yards and Cobb had over 1200. To put it simply, I don’t see anything changing in this high-powered passing attack.
The next team is just as familiar with the top of the passing ranks. The New Orleans Saints have the manpower to have a top 3 offense this year. With Cooks, Thomas, Snead and Fleener… Drew Brees should have no problem having another 420 completion season. While his yardage and touchdowns have declined every year for the last five years, it is arguable that this will be his best supporting cast of that time. I see Cooks as a lock for another 1000 yard season and Willie Snead has a great chance to hit that mark as well. Last season Snead had 7 games with over 75 yards – which helped give him a stat line of 70-990-3 for the year. He was close last year and he should continue to improve in 2016..
Last year the Colts had a very disappointing season. Andrew Luck was hurt most of the year and they just never put it all together. The 2015 season was Hilton’s third straight 1000 yard season but it was his lowest catch rate of his career. This had a considerable amount due to bad QB play. The seven games that Luck played, he only had a QBR of 74.9 and the 8 games that Hasselbeck played he had a QBR of 84.0. In addition to Hilton cracking the 1000 yard mark, Donte Moncrief has a great shot to do it as well. Last year Moncrief nearly doubled his rookie year production, getting more than double the targets, double the receptions and touchdowns and increased his yardage by 65%. Moncrief also has the highest adjusted yards per attempt of any receiver (over 10 attempts) that Andrew Luck has had in his pro career. Moncrief is a prime candidate for a 3rd year breakout receiver and his ADP proves nearly everyone is on board.
Last year the Philadelphia Eagles were a complete disaster and as a result Chip Kelly got fired and went out to San Francisco. The Eagles then brought in head coach Doug Pederson and Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich. During Reich’s tenure in San Diego he led the Chargers to a top 5 passing offense and one of the best stretches of his career. I expect him to bring this same style of play to Philly. Even if Reich can only develop the offense into a top 10 passing offense we should still see Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz have great seasons. Last year Matthews only fished 3 yards shy of breaking the 1000 yard mark and Ertz only needed another 147 yards. With the addition of Reich who prior to the Chargers also has worked with the Cardinals and Colts high-octane offenses, I believe that both JMatt and Ertz will have improved careers.
I see these six teams as having the best chance on entering, or staying in the dual 1000 yard receiver club this season. Each of these offenses have explosive passing attacks with the exception of the Eagles, who still have to prove it under their new coaching regime. I do not though see any of these teams having a legitimate chance at matching one of the five previous teams that have had three 1000 yard receivers. These are all exciting offenses to watch so I suggest we all sit back and enjoy another awesome NFL season this fall.